Lisa Jackson, who took up design as a second (or perhaps third?) career after working in business and journalism, has designed homes for the likes of Renee Zellweger and Tory Burch as well as her best friend Vera Wang—all very commendable etc. but we really wanted to talk to her about was shopping—because if anyone has a black belt in that dark art, it seems to be her:
I have a question for you. I love this quote I found and I’m wondering if it’s haunting you now. You’re talking about shopping in Palm Beach with Vera Wang and you said: “We do all of Abercrombie and Bloomingdales, and we eat Chinese food in the food court and Vera often brings an assistant to carry the bags because we just have to buy … and we have to buy multiples and it’s always more than you can carry.”
[She’s laughing throughout] It’s all true!
Unrepentant. It’s all absolutely a hundred percent true and we’re still at it! [It’s] just that how it works in New York City, there are no shopping bags. You don’t need anybody to come along. V [her nickname for Vera Wang] just shows up, we take over the place for three hours. And you’ve got to be quick … we sweep through and then they send it home.
What percentage gets returned?
Everything goes through a final edit. It gets hung out on racks … it’s part of our fun and we’ve been doing it for twenty years.
What is the bond between you and Vera Wang?
So many things really. I think that we’re aesthetically driven. We just love things … beautiful things and things of good quality. And we both have a tremendous energy for it.
You don’t find that urge sort of dissipating as life moves on?
Absolutely not. It is up to us keep it interesting, so we shop different parts of the world. We have traveled together for twenty years, and with our families.
You studied journalism and finance and then worked in those fields for quite a long time. Was that because you thought that was the “right” thing to do?
No, I did it because I loved it.
So what prompted the change to design?
I worked in my family business for a long time before I went out and did something creative. My family is in the industrial distribution business.
That sounds very boring.
You know what? It’s really not actually, because business is really fun. It’s like a big puzzle and you can be energized by that, and be consumed by that, by people working towards something.
What does industrial distribution mean?
We sold parts to drilling rig customers around the world.
Oh, I’m snoozing already…
[laughs] It’s not for everyone and God knows, it ain’t for cocktail party conversation! But that was my family’s business. My family is [also] in the shipping business and I actually do spend some time in that business as well. We’re heading over to Korea to christen our first ship, which is actually named after my late brother. Business is exciting!
I’m being facetious. I know when you get under the skin of anything, it’s more complex than you think. So how did you re-orient yourself to the visual side of things?
I always had a creative side and it was just that when my kids were born, I didn’t want to travel. My mother has been in the antiques business forever. I grew up sort of under a cultivated scenario, so I always had that part of me.
Is ‘cultivated scenario’ a euphemism for being very rich?
[laughs] No! Maybe? No. I wish it was! You know my father’s a successful businessman, brilliant, fabulous, incredibly elegant, taught me everything I know. My mother is a great beauty, incredibly tasteful … that’s what I know. I sort of had my own twist on everything. I’m a little more out of the box than they were.
How do you feel about money?
It’s a good thing. It allows you a lot of freedom – nothing more. I don’t think it should necessarily shape your life. I’ve been working since I was seventeen years old. It didn’t squash any ambitions. It just makes life a little bit softer, quite frankly.
Are you a worrier?
Um … I’m a worrier about things like … my big goal in life is to watch my children grow up. So, I don’t particularly like to fly. But I don’t really have that many other things to worry about. I love my parents. I’m very, very close to my family and I care about that. And I’ve really, really close friends. I have a great life. One can get really distracted here [in New York] … by really big money. But you have a nice comfortable life [like mine] … it’s good! There’s no new, next, better for me. I’m comfortable with now. And it’s not a small thing. I find that sometimes people who didn’t come from here and they married big time guys—they can’t find their footing. And yet they live these extraordinary lives that they probably never imagined and yet they don’t really have a solid foundation.
I read a description of you that called you a “hardwired New Yorker” – do you think that’s a good description?
I don’t feel that way. I could be hardwired in some way but I also kind of think that I don’t have a big attitude about things, and I don’t actually have a big ego about things. I’d rather be joyful and have some laughs. That’s really my connection with Vera. We just like to kick back and have a cocktail and have some laughs.
What do you like to drink?
I’m a voddy girl, actually. I drink vodka—and never before sundown.